Having the right tool for the job can significantly improve the experience and generally allows you to complete the task quicker and more efficiently. When it comes to digital marketing, there are hundreds of different tools to choose from depending on the task you’re trying to accomplish. It can be difficult to sift through the options and determine which tool is the right choice for you.
Digital marketing tasks can become broad when you’re a solopreneur. Whether your digital marketing tasks include SEO, design, project management, or all of the above, we’ll list the best tools for the job. And since we know there isn’t much of a budget for fancy tools when you’re working to get your business up and going, we’ll focus on tools that are either free or low cost.
Gathering data from your website is important so you can make data-driven decisions. Even if you don’t understand how to read the data yet, and don’t understand how to use the tools, you still want to set them up.
The three tools that we recommend to gather website data are Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools. All three of those tools are free. And all three of them start collecting data once they are set up. They do not pull in historical data. So, get them set up so they can start collecting data even if you don’t yet understand how to use the data.
Google Analytics (Free)
Setting up Google Analytics is simple and a no-brainer for every business. It’s free and provides valuable insights into what your site visitors are doing.
Google Analytics provides data about your website visitors. It not only shows how many people are on your website, it also displays which pages they viewed, entered on, and left on. It allows you to see how many people converted, what traffic source they came from including organic search, referral, and social, and so much more. All of this insight and data is free with Google Analytics.
Without visitor data you are operating your website blind. If you don’t know how many people are on your site, where they came from, and what they do when they’re on your site, you can’t make intelligent changes. This data is pertinent to optimizing your website, and lucky for you, it’s free and easy to set up.
If you don’t already have this installed on your website, let’s start here. Here is a guide you can follow to setup Google Analytics.
Google Search Console (Free)
The Google Search Console contains data and utilities meant to increase website traffic and visibility on Google. Why would anyone turn down free advice from the people they’re trying to impress? The Search Console is what Google uses to communicate issues and errors to website owners and administrators. Ultimately, they use it to give free personalized feedback. If you take some time to listen you’ll likely see some search improvements. To set it up, you can follow the Google Search Console guide.
Bing Webmaster Tools (Free)
For all of the same reasons marketers set up Google Search Console on their site, they also set up Bing Webmaster Tools. The only thing better than getting feedback on your site directly from a search engine, is getting feedback from two search engines! Just because the majority of organic search traffic comes from Google, doesn’t mean the Bing Webmaster Tools should be ignored.
To set it up, you can follow the Bing Webmaster Tools guide.
Google Data Studio (Free)
To easily monitor your data, you’ll want to create a dashboard. The Google Data Studio allows you to create beautiful looking dashboards at no cost.
Canva (Free Option)
To create beautiful graphics with no design experience, try Canva. Whether you’re creating an image for your blog or a social media graphic, Canva makes it super simple. You can choose from a template and fine tune it to match your brand, or you can build a graphic from scratch and easily drag and drop images and text until you have an image you’re happy with.
I find I use Canva for just about every image these days. Even though I know how to use Photoshop, Canva makes the process so simple that for most cases it just doesn’t make sense to use anything else.
Affinity Photo & Affinity Designer ($50 each)
If you do need to use Photoshop or Illustrator but can’t fit the tools in your budget, I’d recommend Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. Photo is the Affinity equivalent to Photoshop, and Designer is the Affinity equivalent to Illustrator.
Though they are not identical, there hasn’t been anything that I would normally do in Photoshop or Illustrator that I haven’t been able to do with the Affinity tools. I have been amazed with how similar they are and how easy it is to transition and learn. You can even open PSD (photoshop) files in these tools if that’s the format you receive.
The best part, and reason why I made the change, is instead of a monthly subscription fee, Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer are a one-time flat fee of $50 each. These tools are certainly worth the cost if you ever need to do more advanced image editing or graphic creation.
Scans & Research
Ubersuggest (Free Option)
Ubersuggest includes a slew of data that can help with SEO. The Ubersuggest data can assist when you’re conducting keyword research, performing a competitor analysis, or even tracking your website ranking. This tool is easy to use and does have a free option. The free option limits the amount of daily searches, but it’s certainly enough to get you started.
Answer The Public (Free Option)
If you need keyword ideas, Answer The Public can help. This tool expands on a keyword topic and groups it out by questions, prepositions, comparisons and more. This is an amazing resource to be able to drill down on some of your topics and find content that is more targeted than your initial idea.
Google Trends (Free)
Google Trends allows you to view how popular keywords are on Google. You can review one term or compare two. You can determine which term is more popular. You can also find related topics and related search queries.
Screaming Frog (Free Option)
Screaming Frog is software you download and install on your computer. It allows you to scan your (or any) website and makes it easy to review on-page SEO elements. Once the scan completes you’ll be able to determine if you’re missing any title tags, H1 tags, or meta descriptions and if you have any duplicates. It is free to scan up to 500 pages. If you want to scan more than 500 pages you’ll have to pay the one-time fee to purchase the software.
Broken Link Check (Free)
To find broken links on your (or any) website, use BrokenLinkCheck.com. It’s a free tool that will run a scan and report back any broken links. It identifies the URL that is not working, the type of error it’s receiving, and the URL of the page where the broken link was found.
Hotjar (Free Option)
Hotjar is like the swiss army knife of user research. This tool includes just about anything you could ask for. It has heatmaps, scrollmaps, feedback polls, surveys, and session recordings.
Google Optimize (Free)
Google Optimize allows you to perform split tests on your website for no cost. It is simple to use and the goals tie in with your existing Google Analytics goals. If you have enough traffic to start split testing, this is a great option.
Page Speed Tests
Both Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix are free tools to test your website speed. With both of these tools, you enter your URL, then it analyzes the page and gives you a report of how the page performed on various page speed factors. Each item that needs improvement includes information about how that item can be improved.
Browser / Device Testing
Google Mobile-Friendly Test (Free)
The Google Mobile-Friendly Test is a free tool that allows you to enter in your website URL and then it will perform a scan to determine if it is mobile friendly. If it is not, it will list some recommended improvements.
Responsinator makes it easy to review your site on various device sizes. Just enter in your website URL and then you can scroll down one long page and view the URL you entered inside several different devices.
HootSuite (Free Option)
HootSuite allows you to schedule out social media posts. It’s easier to keep up with your social media content if you schedule out posts on a weekly basis. HootSuite makes it easier to accomplish that. With the free option, you can schedule up to 30 posts.
Quuu Promote ($50 / month)
Quuu Promote is my favorite content promotion tool. It allows you to use your content to create social posts for others to share on their social media networks. When people share your article it comes across as a natural share from a personal social account. It is an easy way to get a ton of social visibility.
Before using this, make sure social shares are a goal for you and your business. Shares may not lead to clicks and site visits, but they’ll give the content more visibility and a better chance that someone will decide to link to it on their own site.
Google Sheets & Google Docs (Free)
If you need a free alternative to Microsoft Office, Google Drive is worth trying. Google Docs is their Microsoft Word equivalent and Google Sheets is their Microsoft Excel equivalent. Both tools are very robust and excellent tools to create and edit documents for no cost.
Audio & Video
If you need to do any video editing, Camtasia is a great way to do it. It is simplistic yet contains the features you need to create professional videos. It has a bit of a hefty price tag, so before you buy make sure you download the free trial and test it to make sure it’s right for you.
If you have an apple computer, you may want to look into iMovie instead. This is a good choice but not available for Windows users.
If you need to edit audio for a podcast, Audacity is completely free and a great option. It’s not too difficult to get started with and offers several advanced features for people who are more comfortable with audio editing.
If you have an apple computer, you may want to look into Garageband. This is a good choice but not available for Windows users.
Buzzsprout ($12 / month)
If you want to start a podcast and need a podcast hosting service, I’d recommend Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout not only hosts the podcast episodes, it also makes it super simple to publish your podcast across many different podcasting platforms.
MailChimp (Free Option)
If you’re just getting started and need a free marketing email platform, MailChimp is a good choice. It’s simple to use. The free account even allows you to set up automations.
The downfall with MailChimp is it doesn’t allow you to move a subscriber from one automation to the next or move them list to list. So, when you start creating more automations and add complications to your email marketing campaigns, you end up having duplicate subscribers on your lists. This can make things get confusing and since the cost is based on subscriber count, this can pull you out of the free account quicker and can end up costing you more money than necessary.
This isn’t an issue when you’re first starting and things can be simple. Once you want to start adding content upgrades and moving people from list to list, I’d recommend upgrading to the next email platform in our list.
ConvertKit ($29 / month)
ConvertKit makes it easy to manage your marketing emails. It does cost a minimum of $29 per month though so you want to make sure you are taking advantage of the features and making it worth the expense.
With ConvertKit you can drag and drop automation workflows to easily move subscribers around various email campaigns. They can enter with a content upgrade, then be sent information about a free course, once they opt into the course you can start sending that content, then when they’re all finished you can move them over to your newsletter so they continue to keep in touch with you.
This system makes it very easy to manage and create email campaigns.
Trello (Free Option)
Trello allows you to manage tasks in a digital kanban style. It has multiple vertical lists that you add tasks to. The tasks are added in blocks. It’s a similar look and feel to post-it notes on the wall. As a task progresses through the various stages along the way to completion, you move that task to the appropriate vertical list to match its current stage.
The trick with Trello is to name your lists in an appropriate manner for how your work progresses. The most simplistic lists would be To Do, Doing, and Done. The lists that I like to use to match our workflow are Brainstorm, Upcoming, Blocked / Discuss, In Progress, QA, Move Live, and Completed. The tasks typically always move to the right and eventually end up under Completed. Sometimes an item can move back to Blocked / Discuss if an error occurs and then it restarts its journey towards the Completed list.
ClearPath Online ($12 / month)
The other task management tool I rely on is ClearPath Online. Now, to be completely transparent I do want to point out that this is a product I helped create. But, our digital marketing tools list would not be complete without it. This tool helps entrepreneurs grow their own website traffic. And it’s used consistently by its creators. We don’t just market it to others, we use it to grow our own brand and practice what we preach.
ClearPath Online is preconfigured with the inbound marketing tasks you need to complete to grow your own website traffic. The tasks are personalized for you and will appear in your task list at the optimal time. The system creates a routine for you and makes it simple to understand what you need to do, when to do it, and even includes simple step-by-step directions so you know how.
If your website is built with WordPress, there are a few plugins that are valuable digital marketing tools as well.
Yoast SEO (Free Option)
Yoast SEO makes it easy to modify your WordPress posts and pages for SEO. This plugin adds a section on each post and page to be able to adjust the page title and meta description, allows you to adjust meta robots tags, and identifies if the article is optimized for the targeted keyword.
Redirection allows you to add 301-redirects. This is useful if you update a page URL. This plugin will automatically create a redirect from the old URL to the new URL. You can also manually go in and create a redirect. This is helpful if you want to create a shorter version of your URL to share on social sites.
And lastly, Boxzilla. Boxzilla allows you to create lightbox pop up modals on your WordPress website. When someone clicks a link to play a video or clicks a sign up form, you can use boxzilla to open up that element in a box that overlays the current page.
These are the tools I rely on when looking to improve my SEO, grow my website traffic, and increase conversion rates.
Do you have any digital marketing tools you rely on that aren’t included in this list? Please share them in the comments!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode: